The Los Angeles Clippers were dealt a major blow in their 98-84 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers as point guard Chris Paul suffered a fracture in his right hand midway through the third quarter of game four.
If the defeat wasn't bad enough for the Clippers, it appears likely that Paul will be out for the remainder of the playoffs which will effectively end their hopes of winning a championship.
Paul's fracture was in the third metacarpal, in the centre of the palm of his right shooting hand. The point guard will be re-evaluated in Los Angeles today but per ESPN, team sources have indicated that surgery will be required, with the normal recovery time being between three to six weeks.
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Unless X-rays reveal something better, the nine-time All-Star is increasingly likely to be done for the campaign.
"It doesn't look good for him," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after the game.
“Chris is taking this very hard. He’s worked all year to get back to the playoffs. For this to happen to him, he’s a very emotional guy.”
The fact that they'd lost their second straight game in Portland to allow Damian Lillard and his squad to even the series at 2-2 almost seemed irrelevant to the Clippers after seeing their leader go down.
“I talked to him, and he’s clearly disappointed,” said Blake Griffin. “There’s nothing you can do. You try to tell a guy like that, ‘It’s OK, we got you and it’s going to be OK,’ but he’s a competitor. He wants to play. It’s not easy dealing with injuries, especially at this time of the year.”
To compound an awful night in Rip City, Griffin also appeared to aggravate his left quad injury that kept him out for much of the regular season.
Rivers rates Griffin's chances of playing in game five at the Staples Center at 50-50, saying that it didn't look good for the big man either.
“I could feel it, but hopefully in the next 24 hours or 48 hours you turn a corner and feel better,” Griffin said.
After hopes grew in L.A. yesterday that they could overcome the Golden State Warriors in round two following the injury to Steph Curry that will keep him out for two weeks, Doc Rivers cannot afford to allow his players to drop a series in which they led 2-0.
As Rivers will remember all too well, the Clippers dropped a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semi-finals last year to the Houston Rockets, eventually losing the series 4-3. A repeat of that would be inexplicable despite the circumstances.
Rivers is not ready to use Paul's injury as an excuse and said his team has been able to battle through adversity all year with guys going down and will be prepared to do it again and Jamal Crawford, who will take on more ball-handling responsibility in the absence of Paul, echoed his coach's sentiments.
“Obviously, people are going to write us off,” said Crawford. “What are you going to do, you going to fight or run? For us, we’re going back home, and we’re ready to take care of business.”
The injuries to Paul and Curry have been felt outside of L.A. and Oakland too as basketball fans the world over will be denied the opportunity of seeing two of the best point guards in the game go head to head in what would have been an exhilarating matchup.